Sharia practice note: open letter increases pressure on Law Society

The LSS has welcomed an open letter sent by secularists and women’s rights campaigners to all the Law Society’s council members, calling the Law Society’s refusal to withdraw its practice note on sharia succession rules a “gross derogation of duty”.

The letter has been signed by Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters), Maryam Namazie (One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation), Gita Sahgal (Centre for Secular Space), Yasmin Rehman, Diana Nammi (Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation), Rumana Hashem (Nari Diganta – Women in Movement for Social Justice, Secularism and Equal Rights) and Chris Moos (LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society).

The campaigners have obtained legal advice, which they have placed in the public domain and sent with their letter. You can read it here.

In their letter the campaigners summarise that legal advice as follows:

  • The Law Society is subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty since the promulgation of the Practice Note is an exercise of a public function
  • The Practice Note gives rise to equality issues since it provides guidance to solicitors which endorse gender discriminatory laws
  • The Practice Note gives rise to equality issues since it promotes an interpretation of Sharia that is discriminatory on the grounds of religion and ethnicity
  • There is a continuing duty on the Law Society to address equality and diversity issues
  • The Practice Note may give rise to direct discrimination by solicitors acting upon it
  • The Law Society fails to meet the specific requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty, namely, the need to remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by minority women and to eliminate discrimination
  • The Practice Note gives rise to an obvious risk of illegality in its application and is therefore unlawful

Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:

“This letter, and the well laid out legal advice, clearly increases the pressure on the Law Society considerably. We thank the campaigners for this initiative and also for placing the letter and the legal advice in the public domain.

“Recently the LSS met with the Law Society’s Chief Executive and the head of their Equality and Diversity Committee. We were told they would think carefully about whether to retain the practice note, and so we hope this new development constitutes one of the last remaining nails in this practice note’s coffin.

“The Law Society can draw a line under this whole episode very easily. It simply needs to withdraw this controversial practice note. We hope they will do this as soon as possible.”

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